Best health insurance deal in the United States

I want to tell you about the best health insurance deal in the United States, bar none. Here it is: The purchaser pays $35 per month. In return he or she gets ...

• unlimited doctor’s office visits • accident care • unlimited physical therapy • routine exams • unlimited specialty care • durable medical equipment • unlimited on-premises lab & x-ray • unlimited EEG/EKG (expensive, sophisticated medical tests) • unlimited hospital visits • unlimited prescriptions • pap smears • unlimited medical consultations

“But wait, there’s more,” as they say on TV. There are no deductibles. In other words, patients don’t have to pay, say, the first $500 in medical bills before the insurance kicks in. Moreover, there are never any co-payments. Patients with this health insurance get 100 percent coverage for all medical benefits listed above from the first time they see the physician. These patients are never stuck paying 50 percent, 30 percent, or even 20 percent of any charges for any covered visit or medical procedure.

By now you are probably thinking, “Wow! That’s fantastic! Where do I sign up?” I would love to be able to tell you that you can rush right out to your local health insurance sales office and sign on the dotted line, but unfortunately, it is not that easy.

This is a very exclusive deal. In fact, it is only offered to 535 people in the entire United States. You would think that these would be low-income individuals, maybe, to get such affordable health insurance, but they are not. No, in fact all these people earn $158,000 a year or more, and quite a few of them are millionaires. Have you guessed yet who these lucky, well-insured folks are? They are your elected officials, the 535 members of Congress!

And how was the cost of this health insurance determined? According to the Congressional Committee on House Administration: “Based on an analysis of several databases on health care statistics, an independent consulting actuary estimated that the relative value of the services provided by the Attending Physician amounts to less than 45 percent of a federal employee’s average annual share for prepaid health care plans available to federal employees in the Washington, D.C., area.” In other words, they claim that this is based on what other federal employees pay for comparable health insurance coverage. I suspect that the other “federal employees” would not agree.

So remember, while President Bush and his cronies in Congress spend hundreds of billions of dollars making war around the world, and while they cut hundreds of billions of dollars from health care and social services for children, the elderly, and low-income families, these elected officials have the best health insurance deal in the nation.

Finally, here’s a fun thing to do with large numbers. First, multiply $35 times 12 months. That comes out to $420 per year for a great primary care health insurance package. (In other words, it includes all the benefits listed above, but does not include long hospital stays or certain long-term physical or mental health treatments.) Next, let’s divide $420 into, say, all the money President Bush has spent invading and occupying Iraq – that’s now about $106 billion. The answer is ... $252 million. In other words, all the money wasted by Bush and the other armchair corporate warriors invading Iraq and killing tens of thousands of people could have provided primary care for four of every five Americans for an entire year.

War around the world, or health access across the nation? Only our political struggle can determine the answer.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.